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LSD Has Little Effect on TV Marketplace

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Three months after Nielsen pulled the plug on Live ratings in local markets and replaced it with Live + Same Day, there have been few signs that the change in currency has caused any seismic shifts in the planning and buying of TV time. In fact, new research from Janice Finkel-Green, evp and director of buying analytics for Magna Global, indicates that so far, Live + Same Day has not led to inflated rates or ratings, nor an exodus of advertisers from the medium.

That doesn't mean that some big agencies, some of which still oppose Nielsen's decision, wouldn't like the clock turned back. Critics could turn up the heat on Nielsen this week during Nielsen's Consumer 360 Conference in Las Vegas.

Now that the Nielsen's decision seems fait accompli, most of the discussion is turning to how to deal with the new metrics. In late April, the 4As media policy and local TV and radio committees suggested some guidelines for buying and posting using Live + SD data.

Finkel-Greene, one of the few agency execs that has supported Nielsen's decision to change to Live + SD as the primary TV currency, has continued to research the issue, which has been expanded to include three survey periods and more than 300,000 data points.
"I'm not sure what the big fear [over Live + SD] is. It's a better indicator of what people are watching. It's not inflating costs," Finkel-Greene said.

When it comes to local TV inventory, it may be more about market conditions than ratings levels. In analyzing SQAD data for December, January and February, Finkel-Greene found that rates did not go up in daytime and in prime, as most had expected. Instead, the highest rate bumps were in early and late news, due to the pressure on demand from political, big advertisers in newscasts.

Unlike last year when advertisers could all but name their price, this year demand has picked up. In first quarter, local broadcast was up nearly 21 percent on spending increases across TV's core categories. Adding to the pressure on inventory was political, up triple digits in the first six months estimated Val Napolitano, president and CEO of Petry Television. "The upfront sums it up: 7 to 10 percent CPM increases with 80 percent sold. That's an incredibly good sign for spot," Napolitano said.

According to Finkel-Green's research, the statistical variability in the ratings estimates is likely to be higher than the percent ratings difference between Live and Live + D. Only a few prime time programs show big ratings bumps, for some, it can be as high as 10 to 20 percent. On average, there's a 6 percent jump in prime time ratings.

Even Live ratings don't mean that commercials are being viewed. "There seems to be a misconception in the industry that Live program ratings safeguard against commercial ad skipping, because there is no DVR playback included. However, channel surfing, which is included in the Live ratings, accounts for twice as much commercial ratings loss as fast-forwarding, even though half of the recorded ads are skipped," Finkel-Greene said.

As for fast-forwarding in Live + SD, Finkel-Greene said it doesn't represent a significant part of the ratings. Only prime is at issue, and only some prime programs warrant special attention, such as Survivor, American Idol, Chuck, Grey's Anatomy, and Glee.

But all the changes should be addressed via cost adjustments, not by adjusting ratings.
"Buyers should adjust the CPP, not the ratings and keep it in negotiations.

Of course, the entire debate could be moot if Nielsen and the TV industry figures out how to produce commercial ratings for local markets.

"Ratings are directional and quibbling over decimal points is not the way to go. We need to figure out how to get commercial ratings," Finkel-Greene said.